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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Protests in Iran and the Country's Nuclear Announcement

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, (via translator): I am going to ann ounce here with a loud voice that by god's grace the news released by the head of Iran's atomic energy organization was that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think Iran has made a series of statements that are far more political than they are — they are based on politics not on physics, OK?

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It would appear that Iran has attempted a near-total information blockade. It is clear that Iran, the Iranian government fears its own people.

And we've seen reports that the phone system has been taken down, text messaging has been taken down, satellite television has been jammed, the Internet has been throttled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: This coming on the 31st anniversary of the revolution in Iran. And there you see some of the protests, some of the video that did make it out of Tehran, the opposition protesters put down by the Iranian regime, and still getting reports about that as you look at some of the video that actually turned violent.

Two issues here about the nuclear announcement, that they are nuclear country, and about the treatment of the opposition on the ground. Let's bring in our panel tonight, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, your thoughts on this day and this announcement that Iran is, according to the president, Ahmadinejad, a nuclear power?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In terms of demonstrations, the regime had a good day. Sometimes repression works. It certainly worked today. You can repress a revolution. The Tiananmen Square worked. The Chinese communist got 20 years out of it and more.

Sometimes it doesn't — you have a crack in the regime. This happened with the Shah, with the Soviet Union, with Ceausescu.

What was impressive in terms of the regime today was how disciplined were the forces of repression. The Revolutionary Guards were in the street, the paramilitary Basiji were out there. They cracked heads, they used tear gas, and they successfully prevented any mass demonstration.

And among the demonstrators, there has to be something of a loss of confidence. The repression is working. Their leadership is rather weak. The two presidential candidates who called for the mass demonstrations are rather moderate. They are not in tune with the ones in the street who want to change the regime.

And they never outlined a program, any kind of manifesto or direction. It said go out in the streets and essentially get beaten up. And that's a tall proposition if you are a demonstrator out there on their own.

So the regime has succeeded today, and unless there is some later demonstration of the power of the opposition, it could be a turning point in this process and the one that the regime will celebrate.

BAIER: A.B., not a lot from the White House today about the demonstrations. Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman up on the Hill said they were disappointed that there wasn't more talk. P.J. Crowley you heard at the State Department what he said about the — putting down the opposition. What about that?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think at this point the administration knows, ironically — it's a terrible irony that the protests and the Green movement are working against the administration right now, because the announcement that Iran is a nuclear state — whether or not that can be verified is a different story — it served as a distraction. It was conveniently timed to distract away from the protests in the streets today, but it pushes the sanctions to the forefront, right?

Now you have the administration knowing that the protests and the Green movement work against their sanctions regime, their plans, because although they are under pressure from Israel and others, they want to use crippling sanctions, they don't want to use sanctions that will work to the benefit of the regime and unite the country against the U.S.

So, they are still on the two track. They are still on the engagement track for the reason that we know now, which is they are still trying to convince China, and they probably won't. That engagement track will exist as long as China is hesitant. And then also on this sanctions track, but really afraid to pull the trigger.

I don't know — I know that they want to — they want the Green movement to thrive. They refuse to talk about it — that's affecting the sanctions decision.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Or do anything to support the agreement. I guess that's my problem. It seems like the Obama administration is in the grips of a Carter-era view of Iran and the Iranian populous.

If you look back 31 years you had an Iranian population that was in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Shah was largely anti-American, and you had Khomeini capitalize on that and consolidate power because of that fact.

That doesn't exist today. And what Ahmadinejad is trying to do is capitalize on something that isn't there. I think this creates a huge opening for the Obama administration to speak out, for the president to have spoken out in advance of this, to have said something in support of the Green movement in advance of this would have I think helped them.

One thing I was really struck by though was P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman who you played the clip from, went on and said that this demonstrates — the shutting down of all these communications demonstrates the increasing bankruptcy of the regime.

In my view that is some of the strongest language we have had come from the Obama administration in a year. And it comes from the State Department. Not from the White House. That's the problem.

BAIER: I want to turn quickly, Charles — do you have something quick about Iran?

KRAUTHAMMER: When the president spoke earlier in the week about the enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime the Islamic Republic of Iran. There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting "Republic of Iran," leaving out Islamic as a way of saying we don't want a clerical rule.

Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.

BAIER: Quickly, I want to play a sound bite from Vice President Biden about Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This can be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You are going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: "A great achievement of this administration" — A.B.?

STODDARD: Well, listen, they wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. They took office and realized that wasn't going to be possible. They slowed down their plans. They are going to take credit for anything that goes well on this — on their watch. Listen, they are having a lot of trouble.

BAIER: Vice President Biden wanted to split the country in three parts. They were both against the surge.

STODDARD: I understand that, but he was locked up in the old executive office building with a different set of agendas now. And I think that you will see if a withdrawal were to go well — and I don't think it will. I think the political situation there is still volatile and unstable, and god knows what will happen between now and August.

I think they are going to take credit — they are having a lot of trouble with national security issues, a lot of trouble in Afghanistan. We will probably be there many years.

BAIER: It is pretty amazing.

STODDARD: They'll take credit for anything that goes well on their watch.

HAYES: It's one thing for Joe Biden to say it and we can all sort of laugh and say it's Joe Biden. But then Robert Gibbs defended it today in the briefing. And his argument in effect was that President Obama was so powerful as candidate that when he opposed the successful policy choice, the surge, that's what saved Iraq.

I mean, you can't even make it up.

KRAUTHAMMER: One point — if this administration will not admit it was a Bush success, at least it ought to have the decency to say it was an American success and not an administration success.

BAIER: Given the uproar over the handling of the Christmas day bomb suspect, how should the U.S. treat the next alleged terrorist it apprehends, if they do? We will talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS: We're quite comfortable with the way this one was handled. I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, Major, because this case is different than what happened, obviously, on September 11th. This case is different from the details of what happened with Richard Reid. It's hard to compare apples to oranges.

He didn't just stop talking because he got Mirandized, he stopped talking because he was trained to stop talking.

KIT BOND, R-MO., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Mirandizing a terrorist like Abdulmutallab is absolutely ridiculous. The only reason you give somebody the Miranda warnings is if you are going to use his own words in the trial against him. There was plenty of evidence on Abdulmutallab. No way he should have been Mirandized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The man charged with the Christmas day bombing attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, after one interrogation lasting 50 minutes, he was read his rights, got a lawyer, and did not speak to investigators again for five weeks.

This continues, this political back and forth about this decision. So what happens next time? We're back with the panel. Steve?

HAYES: We don't know what happens the next time because we still don't have a clear idea of what happened this time.

And what you have seen from the administration over the past six weeks is really two Abdulmutallabs. You have the Abdulmutallab who was a bumbling idiot who couldn't light his underpants on fire. Now you have the Abdulmutallab who according to Robert Gibbs today was a sophisticated Al Qaeda operative who was trained in counter-interrogation techniques.

You have the Abdulmutallab who the president called an "isolated extremist," but today you have the Abdulmutallab who was sent by Al Qaeda and had knowledge of their senior leadership.

You have Robert Gibbs claiming that we got everything that we could have possibly gotten in a 50-minute interview. Now you say you have the administration pulling valuable intelligence six weeks after the fact.

These are two different people. It's as if we are talking about two different cases in two different descriptions.

BAIER: A.B., Robert Gibbs was asked numerous times what does happen next, and he wouldn't be pinned down.

STODDARD: I think, you know, the Bush administration Mirandized terrorists and put them through civilian trials. I think that after what happened at Fort Hood, I think what happened with the would-be Christmas Day bombing, which would have killed hundreds of people and more on the ground, Americans are frightened and the political tide is turning.

And if you look at what's happening in a bipartisan basis with the politics turning away from terror trials — civilian trials for terrorists, away from Mirandizing terrorists, particularly one whose father — we had so much information on this guy.

I think that if there is — when there is a next time, I think the administration is probably going to do it differently. But I know they are not going to say that now. I don't expect them to.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I would agree. I predict if we have another attack like this, the guy will not get his Miranda rights.

BAIER: If we catch them, if we stop them.

KRAUTHAMMER: Assuming it's something like this, a guy who is caught in the act or in the planning. It is not going to happen.

This administration is defending the action it took on Christmas because this is a president and people in his administration follow him who never admit error. So, they want to re-litigate this question again and again.

But, in the court of public opinion, they are getting destroyed. I think we had a poll the other day that showed by a four-to-one majority Americans believe if you catch a guy like him, you put him in a military court, not the civilian. And obviously you don't give him a right which he never had of remaining silent.

This is an administration where the attorney general was actually asked if you captured bin Laden, would you read him Miranda rights? And he said "I don't know." I mean, the American people know the answer to that, and it is inconceivable that any administration, even this one, would do that.

BAIER: And always the Richard Reid example. December, 2001 happened right after 9/11.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, three months after 9/11, one month after the establishment of commissions, and none of them existed. There was no alternative at the time. And it was still a mistake. It's not a mistake you want to repeat ever.

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